Mister T “Fortune Cookie Caper” (part 7 of 8)

Next, we see a storefront somewhere and the awning says “Chinese Clothing Shop”. And even as you’re starting to think “Oh no, they didn’t,” Robin is explaining in voiceover that they’re going “undercover”. Oh geez. Robin, Spike, Dozer, and Jeff emerge from the shop, and Robin is wearing an elaborate Chinese gown and carrying a black Princess Leia wig [!!]. Spike and Dozer are as usual, but Jeff is wearing a grey linen suit, a black bow tie, a white carnation, and a pencil-thin moustache [!!]. What the hell? How does “keeping an eye” on a Chinese restaurant require dressing up like refugees from a Charlie Chan movie?

Caption contributed by Mark

Robin, Spike and Dozer accompany Jeff to the Tenth Annual Peter O’Toole-Off.

Their brilliant plan appears to be that Robin and Jeff are going to distract “them” while Spike and Dozer look through the fortune cookies [!]. And as she says this, she puts on the wig, and words cannot convey how absoludicrous she looks. Is she pretending to be Chinese? Is that even remotely plausible? It’s a close contest which of these two is whiter, Jeff or Robin, but given her red hair and freckles, Robin probably has the edge.

You know, it’s too bad they don’t have any actual Asian people on the team already. Gosh, if only they could find an Asian gymnast.

Of course, dressing Kim the Japanese girl up as a Chinese person would have been appalling. Whereas sticking Robin in Chinese gown and a coiled black wig is just really, really dumb. No, wait, I’m wrong. Appalling works here, too.

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Wait, it’s getting dumber by the second. When they get to the restaurant, Jeff demands an audition for Robin as a singer [!!!]. What? This is their plan? And when did this traditional Chinese restaurant suddenly become a cabaret?

They’re told that “Mr. Fong” doesn’t need any new acts, but Jeff says they’ll want to hire her anyway. In the most unctuous, smarmy voice imaginable, he says, “Do your stuff, baby!” [!]

Meanwhile, Spike and Dozer sneak into the restaurant. The kid, whose voice is so rough and growly here that he sounds like Jack Klugman talking through a Dispose-all, says the diversion’s working. And we’re about to see why.

Cut to Robin on stage auditioning, and wow. Just wow. I haven’t heard singing this shrill since Alfalfa. Remember when I was talking about the sound a cat makes when you’re swinging it by the tail? Robin does a great impersonation of that here.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Keep it up, Yoko! They’re lovin’ it!”

The best part is her vibrato has got an amplitude of about an octave. She sounds like Beverly Sills operating a jackhammer. Behind her, Jeff is playing an electric guitar that’s not hooked up to anything [?], and I have to say, his performance probably wouldn’t sound much different if he were playing with his feet instead of his hands.

One of the patrons stands up and snarls, “You call this entertainment?” Me? No, I don’t. But obviously, somebody did.

Chinese Gentleman, who must also be known as Mr. Fong, rises from his throne and tells his flunkies to stop them before they empty the restaurant. And you know, “Stop them!” is such a clichéd villain’s phrase that it’s really refreshing to hear it used outside of a chase scene. Several hilarious shots follow with customers running pell-mell through the restaurant with their hands over their ears [!]. Hey, it’s the first thing this episode got right!

Meanwhile, Spike and Dozer have found the bowl of cookies by the front register. Spike allots Dozer the task of opening the cookies, then he’ll read the fortunes. Yeah, somehow I don’t think it would have worked as well with Dozer reading the fortunes. Sure enough, Spike feeds Dozer a cookie, who eats it and then spits out the fortune. That’s some dog. Of course, my dog would eat the fortune and ignore the cookie, so my perspective might be off.

Caption contributed by Mark

On a very special episode of Mister T, Dozer learns he has a tapeworm.

Spike judges this fortune to be boring, though we don’t hear his verdict on whether it’s also blasé and common-place. He orders Dozer to eat another one. As this is going on, a goon tries to grab Robin, while a customer in the foreground grabs his own head and collapses, writhing in pain [!]. Robin dodges the goon, who slides off the stage into a little rock pond in the corner [?].

All of a sudden, Spike and Dozer have gotten through the whole bowl of about a hundred cookies, and there’s only one left. Just then, Mr. Fong appears standing over them, demanding the cookie, but Spike disappoints him and scampers away.

Two more goons make a grab for Robin from opposite sides and she bows, causing them to smash into each other [??]. I love it when the villains try to “get” the heroes, not for any nefarious reason, but just because the heroes are being really annoying. They don’t need Mr. Fong, they need Mr. Roper!

Robin stands up from her bow and her wig has fallen off. One of the goons grunts, “She’s no singer!” [!!] It took her wig falling off for you to realize that? Are you a Madonna fan or something?

Robin and Jeff make a break for it. (Worst. Audition. Ever.) They catch up with Spike and Dozer and are nearly out the door. But Fong operates a lever that’s magically appeared next to the cash register [!], and a huge trap door opens up in the restaurant floor between the kids and the front door [!!]. Why the hell does this restaurant have a huge trap door by the entrance? Does Fong blithely dispose of any customers who show up with a coupon? Or the ones who try to dine and dash?

Not only that, the kids are unable to stop in time, naturally, and they all pitch headlong into the hole. Geez. These kids have a serious problem avoiding obstacles when they’re running. Most people I know do not have a braking distance.

Caption contributed by Mark

“It’s only six feet away! We’ll never be able to stop in time!”

The kids fall, oh, I dunno, about a hundred feet into the restaurant basement. (It’s always very important to make sure your basement has enough overhead clearance for the Amazing Colossal Man.)

They land in a huge bin of clothes. They get to their feet and look around to see the basement is filled with “antiques”. These “antiques” consist of a barbershop pole [?], a hi-fi cabinet, lots of full-length mirrors, half a dozen grandfather clocks, various items of very ordinary furniture, and a slew of ugly end-table lamps my grandmother would’ve immediately consigned to the guest room.

Robin figures out the clothes they landed in were stolen from Future Fashion Design. What? In the words of Hank Hill, how could that be? This huge bin of clothes came out of that tiny briefcase the Phantom Firebug escaped with? Are these clothes so futuristic that they come in tablet form?

A moment later, Jeff spots his parents’ first editions piled carelessly on a nearby table. Want to know what rare antique books Jeff and his folks prize so highly? Expecting Faulkner, Vonnegut, Tolstoy, that sort of thing? Let’s just take a look, shall we? The titles we can read include:

  • Golden Medallion (hey, it’s self-referential!)

  • I, the Jury [!!] (Mickey Spillane’s finest work!)

  • Double Edged Danger [?]

  • Kiss Me Dead (either that’s a reference to the Cure, or a mangling of Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly)

Seriously, these kids nearly got killed half a dozen times over “first editions” of Mike Hammer novelettes, and something that sounds like a long-lost Hardy Boys book? What’s next, a duel to the death over a rare laserdisc copy of Newsies?

The goons enter the basement, and Spike suggests they get out of there. While he’s speaking, Dozer finally resurfaces from the big pile of clothes, and he’s wearing a huge floppy orange hat, adorned with a big red bow, a large blue ostrich feather, and a bunch of white grapes. So now it seems the future will be inhabited by the Spice Girls, Buck Rogers, and Dolly Levi.

Caption contributed by Mark

The size of this antique spittoon tells us just how far out of hand the chewing tobacco craze got.

The goons lose “them miserable kids” and we see the team crouching behind a 12-foot-tall metal barrel [?]. Jeff says they need a place to hide, and Robin suggests they get in the barrel [!]. Surely, nothing can go wrong with this ingenious plan.

Even though there’s a large crate right next to the barrel they could easily hide in, the others all climb up Jeff’s back [?] to get inside the barrel. They probably just wanted an excuse to be obnoxious to him, since it’s probably been a few scenes since they laughed at him or gave him a wedgie.

Exactly one second after Jeff says, “We’ll be safe in here!” Fong appears, looking down at them from above, gloating about how dumb they are. Man, should I really be agreeing with the bad guy this much?

Jeff and Robin explain Fong’s scheme to him about using arson to cover up robberies, just in case he didn’t realize what he’d been doing. During this, Jeff shakes his puny fists at Fong, and this is as intimidating as you might imagine. Fong claims to be impressed by their detective work, because the police are still stumped. Don’t kid yourself, Fong. Actually, they’re just lazy.

Fong claims not to know who the Firebug is, so even if the guy’s caught, there’s nothing to implicate Fong. Even the fortune cookies are “just riddles”. Fong then puts a lid on top of the barrel, which has now swelled up to something like 25 feet tall. Robin objects that the crimes will be traced to this “warehouse”, but Fong says it will be empty by midnight. “I can’t be stopped!” he explains matter-of-factly, and in a startling dose of realism, he completely refrains from launching into an insane cackle. Now, that’s scary.

Meanwhile, Mr. T, Kim, and Woody have arrived at the Water Street robbery target: a rare stamps and coins shop. They see a shadow, and Mr. T thinks he has the Firebug, but it turns out to be nothing. In fact, the Firebug is—um, somewhere—projecting a shadow to lure Mr. T into position. “Now I’ve got you!” he says, pushing a button. Instantly, a half-circle of flames leaps up from nothing, trapping Mr. T and the two kids against a brick wall.

The Firebug gloats that Mr. T will have to watch helplessly while he loots the store. As he disappears, Woody admits there’s not much they can do. Boy, it’s too bad this isn’t taking place in some big metropolis, where there are thousands of people out on the streets at all hours to wander past and possibly help out. As it is, they’re stuck in raggedy old New York City, where, as everybody knows, there are no cars and no passersby, and everybody just stays cooped up in their rooms all day watching ShopNBC.

The Firebug’s trap is just really stupid for a number of reasons. I could talk about any of them, including how overly elaborate it is, or how it’s unlikely that all three of them could be lured into exactly the right spot all at the same time by a projected shadow.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Woody! Put your face back on and help me put out this fire!”

But let’s just go with the most blindingly obvious reason, which is this: It appears the Firebug has very thoughtfully set up his trap in such a way that within his fiery circle of death is contained a big red fire hydrant [!!!].

Mr. T shrewdly notices this tiny flaw in the Firebug’s otherwise foolproof plan. He lifts the top off the hydrant, somehow creating a ten-foot fountain that douses the flames. The three then quickly head into the store (and they’re all perfectly dry, in case you were wondering).

Inside, the Firebug is slowly filling a bag with framed coin and stamp thingies from an endless array of display cases. Suddenly, we pan across to the door just as Mr. T bursts through it [!]. Oh, come on! Was it even locked?

Caption contributed by Mark

Little known fact: Most doors in New York are actually giant Town House crackers, painted brown and carefully shellacked.

The Firebug flees out the back, so Mr. T and the others chase him into a blind alley. The Firebug lifts up a manhole cover and dives into the sewers, which are filled chest-high with water. Maybe during a storm, this might be accurate—otherwise, the city sewers may be filled chest-high, but probably not with “water”…

Mr. T dives in and starts swimming after the bad guy. I sure hope there’s a crocodile down there to liven things up. No such luck, though. T catches up with the Firebug, who offers to reveal the location of the stolen goods if T lets him go. Mr. T, however, does not bargain with crooks. Or fools.

Caption contributed by Mark

“What the—? You’re not a crocodile!”

T yanks off the hood, and—well, what do you know? It’s Mr. Boring! Blasé! Common-place! Gosh! What a shocking twi—wait, we already knew this! He pulled off the hood twenty minutes ago! Yes, we only saw the hair, but he’s the only adult male redhead in the entire episode! Did they seriously try to make a suspense moment out of something we’ve known for ages? What will they reveal next, that Robin is an icy bitch and Jeff is a stuck-up dickwad? Don’t stop the presses!

Mr. Boring—the most aptly named villain ever—promises to tell all, and we fade back to the restaurant.

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he's nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: Mister T "Fortune Cookie Caper"

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